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JFF Urges Senate to Pass the Build Back Better Bill and Help Young Jobseekers

Currently awaiting Senate action, Build Back Better includes important provisions that would improve the career prospects for young people who have been hit hard during the economic downturn.

December 13, 2021

At a Glance

Currently awaiting Senate action, Build Back Better includes important provisions that would improve the career prospects for young people who have been hit hard during the economic downturn.

Lili Allen Senior Advisor

JFF urges the U.S. Senate to pick up the Build Back Better Act and pass it without delay.

Paired with the hard infrastructure package that President Joe Biden signed into law in November, the bill calls for historic investments in job creation and American families that are essential to the nation’s short- and long-term economic recovery. Importantly, it also promotes policies that could help build new employment opportunities for the many young people in this country who have been hit hard by the economic downturn of the past 18 months.

Young people have lost jobs at a disproportionately high rate during the pandemic, and as the economy slowly makes its way toward recovery, they are being rehired in predominantly low-wage positions with few opportunities for advancement.

Young people have lost jobs at a disproportionately high rate during the pandemic.

Moreover, in today’s labor market, people who are unemployed and underemployed are finding that they must acquire new or additional skills to prepare for well-paid jobs in fields that offer pathways to career advancement. That can be especially challenging for young adults who face barriers, including the need for child care, that make it difficult to persist in and complete education and training programs.

The Support Young Jobseekers Deserve

Currently awaiting Senate action after being passed by the House in November, the Build Back Better Act can offer young jobseekers the support they deserve through provisions like these:

  • $1 billion for Registered Apprenticeships, including pre-apprenticeships
  • $5 billion for community college and industry partnerships
  • $450 million for YouthBuild
  • $450 million for Job Corps
  • $700 million for career technical education programs
  • An increase of $550 to the maximum Pell Grant
  • An increase in funding to historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, and other federally designated minority-serving institutions
  • Critical investments in family supports, including universal pre-K and continued expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

We urge federal policymakers to consider building on strategies [that] have been shown to benefit young adults facing barriers in the labor market.

If Build Back Better (BBB) passes, federal agencies will determine the details of how funds will be distributed. As they begin to write rules, guidance, and competitive grants, we urge federal policymakers to consider building on strategies like these, which have been shown to benefit young adults facing barriers in the labor market:

  • Ensure that apprenticeship funding serves both young adults who are in high school and those who are not. The House version of BBB specifically provides funding for expanding Registered Apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship opportunities for youth. It also expands funding for Title I youth programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). As policymakers provide guidance for state and local agencies, it’s important for them to prioritize support for opportunity youth—young people ages 16 to 24 who are neither working nor in school, whose ranks more than doubled to over 10 million during the economic downturn of 2020. This population includes young people in alternative schools and high school equivalency programs, who can benefit from pre-apprenticeships that connect directly with Registered Apprenticeships, and young adults who have a high school credential but are not working or are in low-wage jobs. JFF learned important lessons on how to reach these populations with apprenticeship pathways through our Apprenticeship Equity and Modernization initiative, and we know much more can and should be done.
  • Ensure that education and training programs meet youth and young adults where they are. BBB includes strong investments in initiatives that can help young people who are disconnected from work and school get the skills necessary for economic advancement. However, these policies must have provisions that meet the unique needs of people who are just beginning lifelong journeys of work and learning. They should support career pathways models that include career exploration activities, work-based learning opportunities, “on-ramp” programming that prepares participants for challenging training experiences through which they can acquire the most in-demand skills, and wraparound supports, such as assistance with child care, transportation, and food insecurity. Through our work implementing a young-adult-specific career pathway—CareerNext—in communities across the country, we have learned that young people facing significant barriers in the workplace can succeed in rigorous career training programs with the right preparation and supports, usually offered by community-based organizations that know them and know how to help them succeed.
  • Ensure that programs focus on postsecondary success. BBB calls for increased funding for YouthBuild and JobCorps, and a huge increase in climate-related education and training initiatives. Federal policymakers must ensure that these programs include an emphasis on postsecondary success—both in college and careers—as they expand and scale. The new climate education initiatives, in particular, create new opportunities for federal policymakers to ensure that education and training experiences improve participants’ chances to advance economically.

We applaud the House for passing this legislation and are eager to see the Senate take action and send it to the president as soon as possible. The investments that Build Back Better authorizes can change the trajectory of a generation of young people experiencing disastrous disruptions at a critical period in their lives.

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